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Ladakh, an ethereal cold desert is also known by names like The Last Shangrila, Little Tibet and Moonscape. Situated in the midst of multi-hued mountains, Ladakh has a rugged landscape with its quaint combination of smooth and odd-shaped hills. Ladakh lies between the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges transversely while it is bounded by two of the world's greatest mountain ranges, the Great Himalaya and the Karakoram. Snow -carved peaks, translucent lakes and a mystic culture have earned Ladakh the name Hermit Kingdom. In the state of Kashmir, Ladakh lies at the eastern corner bordering Tibet.

Getting to Ladakh

Ladakh remains a high-altitude desert with the Himalaya serving as a barrier sheltering it from the Indian monsoon. We can still see some ruins of an extensive lake system that once prevailed here. The winter snowfall is the main source of water. The heavy snow received in winter at Drass, Zanskar and Suru Valleys on the Himalaya's northern flank feeds the glaciers.

Public buses are the cheapest way to travel within Ladakh. Taxis are comfortable but costlier. For visiting the newly opened areas like Nubra, Dah-Hanu, Tsokar and Pangong Lakes, engaging the services of a registered travel agency to make all the necessary arrangements is mandatory.

Picturesque Ladakh

Drass: This small township which is 60 km west of Kargil on the road to Srinagar is the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Temperature during winter plummets to even - 40 degrees because of repeated snowfalls. The base of the Zojila pass, which is the Himalayan gateway to Ladakh, is the starting point of the Drass valley. For a 3-day trek to Suru valley crossing the sub-range that separates the two valleys, Drass is a suitable base. On both sides of the 4500 mts high Umbala pass through which the trek passes, check out flower-sprinkled meadows and picturesque upland villages. The holy cave of Amarnath is in neighboring Kashmir. Trekkers can reach Amarnath in three days, starting from Minamarg beneath Zo-jiLa and crossing over 5200 mts high pass. Tourists who travel from Srinagar to Ladakh by road have to register themselves at the Tourist Registration Center at Drass.

Kargil: The second-largest urban center of Ladakh, Kargil is the headquarters of Kargil district. Located at a height of 2704 mts, it is 204 kms from Srinagar on the western side and 234 kms from Leh on the east. Kargil used to be a transit center for commodities like silk,brocade, tea, carpets, and felts, poppy and ivory on the way to and from China, Tibet and Kashmir. Kargil's location in the center of theHimalayan regionhas good potential for adventure activities. It has become an important base for adventure tours in the Himalayan region. Travelers from Srinagar to Leh have to halt here for a night before proceeding.

Drass and Wakha are the two tributaries of the Suru River which meet here. Fine apricots grown here make the town famous. In August, the entire countryside glows in an orange hue due to the ripening fruit.

Adventure activities like trekking, mountaineering,river rafting and camping flourish in Kargil which serves as an ideal base for them. The chief attraction of Mulbek to which you can take a short excursion from Kargil, has a 9 mt high rock sculpture which depicts the future Buddha. The best among the interesting walks along the riverside is the one that leads to Goma Kargil. Some of the most scenic parts of Kargil present magnificent views of the mountain stream all along a 2-km winding road. Curios like brass kettles, traveling hookahs, flint and tobacco pouches are sold in the bazaar. Pashmina shawls, local carpets and other woolen handicrafts are available in the showroom of Government Industries Centre near the river bank. A rare delicacy of apricot jam and dry apricot are available in the bazaar.

Ladakh Mountaineering

Nun-Kun Massif in the Great Himalayan Range is accessible from the Kargil-Pudum road. Massif is the most attractive climbing destinations because of its shortest possible approach to the base camps. Nun (7,135 m) and Kun (7,077 m) are the two highest peaks among the six peaks accessible from the Suru valley.

Stok-Khangri Massif, in the Zanskar Mountains is nearest to Leh. This peak offers a stunning view of the central expanse of the Indus valley. Saser-I, Saser-II and Saser-III are some of the prominent summits of higher altitudes ( above 7400 mts) which are accessible to foreign climbers who get special permission from the Government of India.

The ideal period for climbing is from June to September, since Ladakh is not affected by monsoon during this time. Obtaining permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation is mandatory for climbing listed peaks.

Treks in Ladakh: There are treks ranging from short day-long treks to visit remote villages to long trans-mountain treks involving weeks of walking and camping in the wilderness. Zanskar range which separates the Indus Valley should be crossed over in most of the trekking routes. Some of the popular treks are the Markha valley trek, Lamayuru trek and the Stok-Khangri trek. Early June to mid-October is considered the traditional trekking season. May is also suitable for localized treks. Late autumn trekking is suitable only on some routes because turbulent streams along the track are common during summer. The most exiting trek during winter to Zanskar valley needs elaborate arrangements as it involves trekking along the frozen surface of the Zanskar River.

Festivals of Ladakh

Festivals are part of Ladakh's heritage. Some popular festivals take place in summer, but most of them are celebrated in winter. Monks wear colorful silk garments and special facial masks during the monastic festivals. Two very important festivals are Losar (New Year) celebration and the Ladakh festival.

Celebrations of Losar Festival begin two months ahead of Tibetan New Year, in the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar. Lasting for about a month, Gods, deities, ancestors and even animals are fed during the festival. To bring prosperity in the coming year people dot their kitchens with the images of Ibex which they consider auspicious.

Ladakh Festival: Ladakh celebrates this festival from September 1 to 15 every year. Leh and its villages wear a festive look. Procession of different cultural troupes from various parts of Leh takes place to mark the occasion of the inauguration ceremony.

Sightseeing in Leh

Ecological center: Ecological center is good place of information about trekking in the region. Besides, there are many small stores selling ecological products; from apricot jam to locally handmade clothes. It exhibits excellent videos on trekking and Ladhaki culture.

Moravian church: Moravian church depicts interesting snippets of history about Ladakh. When Moravian mission brethren reached Ladakh in 19th century from Bohemia, they were refused entry into China. They finally settled in Ladakh.

Palace: Lhasa's Potala palace is grandeur personified; reminiscent with temple of the guardian deities above it and an astounding view of the palace roof.

Shanti stupa: Shanti stupa offers a magnificent view of the valley. It is located in the village of Changspa. One has to walk around 500 steps to lead there. It is one of the most famous religious spots of Ladakh.

Soma gompa: Soma gompa is one of the best illustrations of Ladakh's finest monasteries. The headquarters of Ladakh Buddhist association is situated here. This religious site shines quietly with numerous oil lamps.

Tibetan refugee handicraft center: Tibetan refugee handicraft center is located in a village called Choglamsar. This center could be spotted on the way to Thiksay monastery or Shey palace. Wide range of hand-woven rags, mats used for furnishing tables and chairs, thick woolens and an odd selection of trinkets can be found here.

Market place: Market place includes many handicraft shops and pavement stalls which sell turquoise stones, woolen,silver jewelry, Tibetan antiques, Buddhist ornaments and china silk.

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North India Travel North India Travel - Information on North India Travel

Mussoorie Mussoorie - Travel to the Queen of the Hills

Nainital Nainital - Travel to this Idyllic hill station

Jim Corbett National Park Jim Corbett National Park - India's first wildlife reserve

Ladakh Ladakh - Last Shangrila, Little Tibet and Moonscape

Fatehpur Sikri Fatehpur Sikri - City of Victory

Trekking to Valley of Flowers Trekking to Valley of Flowers - Great Himalayan ranges

Nandadevi Nandadevi - Carpet of extensive alpine flowers

Tomb of Sher Shah Suri Tomb of Sher Shah Suri - Indo-Islamic architecture

Naukuchiatal Naukuchiatal - Kumaon Peaks

Almora Almora - Ancient Cultural Influence

Chail Chail - Shivalik peaks

Gwalior Gwalior - Historical city in MP

Spiti Valley Spiti Valley - Nestled in the Himalayas

Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary - Asiatic Lions

Kangra Valley Kangra Valley - Himachal Retreat

Auli Ski Resort Auli Ski Resort - Skiing

Hemkund Sahib Gurdwara Hemkund Sahib Gurdwara - Snow Bowl Gurudwara

Agra Fort Agra Fort - Magnificent Citadel

Qutb Minar Qutb Minar - Tallest brick minaret in the world

Humayun's Tomb Humayun's Tomb - Exceptional splendor and gradeur

Heritage Tour of India Heritage Tour of India - Magnificent architectural splendour

Agra Agra - Standing astride the Yamuna.

Shimla Shimla - Reminiscent of British times

Hemis Gompa Hemis Gompa - Grand Monastery in the hills

Alchi Chos-kor Alchi Chos - patronized by rich Buddhist monks

Shimla Train Shimla Train - The Journey will Continue

Himalaya Mountain View Himalaya Mountain View - Majestic mountain range

Ranikhet Travel Ranikhet Travel - Meadow of the Queen

Himalaya Trekking Himalaya Trekking - Imbibe the spirit of Himalayas.

Basilica of Lady of Graces Sardhana Basilica of Lady of Graces Sardhana - Marian Shrine

Pahalgam Kashmir Pahalgam Kashmir - Premier hill station

God in Himalaya Mountains God in Himalaya Mountains - Abode of Shiva and his consort Shakthi

Char Dham Char Dham - Most revered 4 temples of Hindu Pilgrimage in Himalayas

Yamunotri Yamunotri - Yamunotri - dedicated to Goddess Yamuna

Gangotri Gangotri - Holy destination that embodies the origins of the Ganga

Kedarnath Kedarnath - Kedarnath on the Garhwal Range built by Adi Shankaracharya

Badrinath Badrinath - Badrinath dedicated to Vishnu - supreme God of Vaishnavites

Temples in Mathura and Vrindavan Temples in Mathura and Vrindavan - Temples dedicated to Lord Krishna

Temples in Dwarka Temples in Dwarka - legend and lore that surround the temples in Dwarka

Amritsar Golden Temple Amritsar Golden Temple - In the Pool of the Nectar of Immortality

Vaishno Devi Temple Vaishno Devi Temple - Shakti - Source of all Power

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Kashi Vishwanath Temple - Temple in the oldest living city